California Appeals Court Rules That Domestic Partnership Law Does Not Violate Proposition 22 Marriage Initiative

Apr 4, 2005

Today the California Court of Appeals ruled that the statewide marriage initiative passed by the voters in 2000 known as Proposition 22 was not violated by the states domestic partnership law. Campaign for California Families ("CCF") challenged the law passed by the legislature in September 2003 known as AB205, which purported to grant the same rights, protections, and benefits, and provide the same responsibilities, obligations, and duties under the law to domestic partners as are granted to and imposed upon spouses in marriage. CCF challenged AB 205 and is represented by Mathew D. Staver, President and General Counsel of Liberty Counsel, and Senior Litigation Counsel, Rena Lindevaldsen.

In 2000, the voters passed Proposition 22, which states that "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California." Prop 22 did not amend the states Constitution, but is like a legislative statute passed by the people as opposed to the legislators. In 1999 California recognized domestic partnerships for the first time and granted two minor benefits. In 2001, the legislature expanded domestic partnerships. In September 2003, the legislature passed AB205, which substantially expanded domestic partnerships by granting identical rights to same-sex domestic partners as are afforded to spouses in marriage. Essentially the only benefits not conferred were benefits that can only be conferred by the federal government.

California law prohibits the legislature from "amending" a voter legislative initiative. An amendment can be any subsequent legislative act that changes the scope or effect of an initiative. The Court ruled that since Proposition 22 only defined marriage as the union of one man and one woman and did not address the benefits of marriage, a domestic partnership law which provides virtually the same benefits as marriage did not conflict with the initiative. The Court contrasted Prop 22 with other state constitutional amendments that define marriage as the union of one man and one woman and prohibit substantially similar marital status from being conferred on same-sex couples. The Court referred to the constitutional provisions in Nebraska, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Ohio and Texas.

Staver commented: "Although Proposition 22 did not expressly address 'substantially similar relationships' to marriage or the 'benefits of marriage,' it is obvious that the peoples intent was not simply to trademark the label 'marriage.' The voters intended not only to preserve the name marriage but also the essence of marriage."

Liberty Counsel will ask the California Supreme Court to review this case.